BRUSSELS Germany will not have to remove the name "Parmesan" from cheeses on sale that are not made in Italy's Parma region, Europe's highest court said on Tuesday.
In a blow dealt to Italy and the European Commission, which filed the lawsuit against Germany, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said the Commission had failed to show adequately why Germany should take action in such cases.
While the ECJ ruled that only cheeses bearing the EU's protected designation of origin, or PDO, of "Parmigiano Reggiano" could be sold under the name "Parmesan", it said the responsibility of monitoring compliance was not down to Germany.
"Since the Commission has not established that the German legal system does not sufficiently protect the PDO "Parmigiano Reggiano", the infringement proceedings against Germany are dismissed," the ECJ said in a statement.
Parmesan, a hard crumbly cheese sprinkled on pasta or eaten in chunks with balsamic vinegar, comes from northern Italy where local cheese makers have been fighting to protect their product from what they consider lower-quality copies.
The European Commission, supported in its court case by the Italian government, had argued that Germany should not have allowed non-Italian cheese to be labeled "Parmesan".
But Germany, Europe's second-largest producer of the cheese after Italy, said "Parmesan" had become a generic term over the centuries for grated hard cheese and entirely unrelated to the specific Italian product made in Italy's Parma region.
(Reporting by Jeremy Smith; Editing by Dale Hudson)